A Thousand Words

Anxieties About English

Anxieties About English

My mother was an English major. After earning her B.A. from a small liberal arts college in upstate New York, she started working on a Ph.D., also in English. Raised in the elite clubrooms and halls of Anglophone India, schooled in the Western canon (“reading from...
On Writing the Acknowledgments

On Writing the Acknowledgments

This month, I finish my Ph.D dissertation (a dissertation that is really speaking only the first draft of an eventual book, and therefore not “finished” at all). Throughout this process, I’ve thought often about the acknowledgments I will write. Who will I thank, and...
Anatomy of a Mugging

Anatomy of a Mugging

On March 1st, when my daughter, Mrinalini, and I were coming home from school on a bright, late-winter afternoon, we were mugged. I use the word advisedly. Mugging is a term with a fraught and well-researched history. It occasioned one of the most well-known studies...

To My Uncle Shashi Tharoor on his 60th Birthday

I’m sorry I shut the window on your fingers, curved around the frame of the steel car door. It was an accident; I didn’t know how quickly the automatic glass would close. We were driving around Durham, and it was the first time I really had you to myself. You were at...
On the Difficulty of Making Friends

On the Difficulty of Making Friends

The scene is a winter party, Chicago, the year 2015. There are large platters of powdered cookies and plates of soft cheese. There is an eight-quart stockpot of mulled wine on the stove, all floating orange segments and cinnamon spice. And there is an older crowd:...
Snoring Shanmugam, and Other Cautionary Tales

Snoring Shanmugam, and Other Cautionary Tales

I spend much of my time reading, always have. When I was in elementary school, I even read during recess, sitting alone by the tanbark box, hoping not to be hailed into a monkey-bar race or other gymnastics contest for which I was congenitally unprepared. Nowadays, in...